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Konica Medical Imaging "Connects" Community Hospital to Latest in Film and Digital Technologies

Michele Kriegman
Sources:
 2001, 'Konica Medical Imaging "Connects" Community Hospital to Latest in Film & Digital Technologies,' MEEN... Imaging Technology News... November/December.
 

SOLUTIONS APPLIED: A Case Study

Saints Memorial Medical Center in Lowell, Massachusetts is a 220-bed, full-service community hospital.  Known for its large and active cardiology and oncology services, as well as its busy ER and radiology departments, it represents the marriage of two local Catholic hospitals almost nine years ago.  During the operational phase of the merger, Steve Walter, with two previous mergers under his belt, was brought on board as Director of Diagnostic Imaging to officiate. 

Heavy Volume, Old Equipment, Environmental Issues = Problems, Problems, Problems

During the first three years, Saints Memorial saw radical workflow changes in the radiology department as a result of this hospital union.  There were some economies and efficiencies as one hospital began to handle the majority of patient services for what were two active acute care facilities.  But with their patient caseload continuing to increase, the radiology department was pushed to the max.  Saints Memorial upgraded some of what Mr. Walter calls their "more exotic modalities:” digital angiography, digital nuclear medicine, spiral CT, digital cardiac cath, and digital fluoroscopy.

 But "the infrastructure of the basic bread and butter radiology business was left to just really take a beating,"

The situation only worsened with time. The diagnostic radiology department at Saints Memorial had been built around three daylight systems. They had been upgraded several times and one had been completely replaced. They were already experiencing significant amounts of downtime when their manufacturer announced they would no longer be supported, in part due to their age.

In addition, by the late 1990’s the city of Lowell was coming out with very aggressive standards for effluent particulate control. The hospital administration got quotes from consultants, and discovered that upgrading the recovery equipment to meet the new standards would have been exceedingly costly. Yet at the same time, wet processing was beginning to cause the hospital more immediate plumbing and flooding problems.

Upgrade Decision

The hospital administration readily understood the urgency of the situation and offered to replace the daylight systems. However, the radiology department did not want to pay, as Mr. Walter explained, “$70,000 a piece for a system that would just improve the status quo without doing anything to advance the department in terms of preparing for a digital platform.” Instead, they argued not only to get out of screen imaging and into digital imaging, but also to get out of all wet laser processing and into dry processing completely.

An Unexpected Choice Pays Off

“People say that you usually already have a vendor in mind when you ask for quotes or RFPs,” explains Steve Walter with a chuckle. “And when we went into this process I can honestly ssay that Konica was not immediately in the picture. In fact, we didn’t want to really consider Konica in the first place because they were so new to this arena. There was an exposure there and we didn’t want to risk it.” Other companies seemed like a more conservative choice at the time because they had older legacies in the imaging market than Konica, and because Saints Memorial was already using one competitor for its daylight system.

That kind of thinking ultimately proved to be wrong. “As it turned out, the Konica rep offered us a fresh approach to solving our problems,” states Mr. Walter. “Not only were we more impressed with Konica’s product design, but the Konica team became a partner in my business,” he continues.

Eventually, after a review process that Mr. Walter conducted together with Saints Memorial's Chief of Radiology and a Senior Technologist, they chose Konica for several product and financial reasons. Under their criteria, it became a courting competition between Konica and three industry leaders.  One suitor was eliminated early by its non-competitive pricing.  Another competitor, with a long history of market dominance, would have cost Saints Memorial roughly $75,000 more in film costs per year.  They also could not match Konica's dry laser imager capacity of 150 films per hour.  They found that a third vendor was close but couldn't match Konica's ease-of-loading and workflow performance. On the finance side, Konica's package of equipment, film and service contracts were very competitive. "It was obvious Konica wanted to work with us and the overall economics of their proposal were by far the best," states Mr. Walter. 

When all was said and done, Konica Medical Imaging sold Saints Memorial two REGIUS CR systems and three DRYPRO dry laser imagers.  Konica also sold the complete network hardware, including the network gateway and interfaces.  All of the Konica products are compatible with the DICOM industry standard, to allow flexibility and scalability in the long-term and even integration with third-party vendors. 

Integration, Training, Support

Clearly, Konica was able to outshine the competitors through their sales presentation of the new product.  But how would Konica fare with the critical issues of integration, training and support?  The answer was a pleasant surprise for Mr. Walter. "Installation was extremely smooth," claims Mr. Walter.  "Everything was pre-staged to the degree that it was simply roll-it-out, plug-it-in and turn it on.  Our across-the-board conversion to CR and dry laser processing was the single most significant initiative for our department in the past 10 years.  Konica's solution allowed us to make a complete conversion from a conventional film-screen system to a total digital, DICOM-compliant imaging network in the space of two weeks!"

 [Image caption: Stacey Leigh - Staff Technologist &  Tony Gates - Clinical Coordinator working on the Konica DRYPRO Dry Laser Imager ]

Training went equally well, with Walter observing that "within three or four weeks, almost everyone was comfortable and within two months everyone was proficient with the system."  Saints Memorial now has roughly 40 technologists that use the REGIUS CR systems and DRYPRO dry laser imagers. 

Saints and Konica Grow Together

When asked where Saints Memorial is going, Mr. Walter answered without hesitation, "We are just waiting to give birth to PACS.  We have the 'nurseries' all ready and everything we need to go." He envisions a Picture Archiving Computer System (PACS) implementation soon.  Although Saints Memorial has already realized considerable return on investment through Konica's CR system, they predict even greater opportunities with this next phase.  They foresee PACS as the key to high clinical image quality and accelerating access to diagnostic data that will benefit their physicians and patients alike.  Mr. Walter concludes by saying, "Konica has proved to me that they keep their promises.  That makes all the difference in the world when you have to make major decisions that will affect you and your department for years to come." 

 

 MEEN... Imaging Technology News... November/December 2001

 

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